I’m a lawyer, so I suppose I should have written crime novels featuring gutsy prosecutors or honorable public defenders. Instead, I write about prostitutes. One in particular, that is, named India Black. She’s the proprietor of Lotus House, a London brothel doing business during the reign of Queen Victoria, or Her Royal Porcinity, as India likes to call her. India has shocking manners.
What could possibly motivate an attorney to write a humorous novel about an English madam who helps Benjamin Disraeli retrieve a vital memorandum stolen by those nefarious Russians? I haven’t the foggiest. If I have made some subconscious connection between law firms and brothels, that connection still hasn’t manifested itself to me. Yes, I’m well aware that there are many similarities between the two professions, the primary one being that both provide services of a sometimes questionable ethical nature in exchange for outrageous hourly fees. But I opted for tarts over torts. My heart just wasn’t in courtroom dramas. Well, I couldn’t have written those anyway, having been in a courtroom exactly twice in my legal career. The rest of the time I spent sitting at a desk drafting documents or talking on the phone. You’d be hard pressed to find the drama in defining adequate consideration for the transfer of real property. You see what I mean? Just writing that sentence can induce sleep.
Even though I’ve chosen not to write about the legal field, it doesn’t mean that I have refrained entirely from using my past experience in writing the India Black series. A couple of decades spent working with people is useful training for a writer. You certainly do meet a wide variety of personalities practicing law and they run the gamut from the incredibly principled to the undeniably sleazy. I expect India has encountered a similar range of characters. In fact, I know that she has, because I created them. Several of the villains and minor characters in my novels resemble certain people I’ve met in the past and not, I hasten to add, in a libelous way. I’ve just grafted on a nervous tic here, an abrasive attitude there.
Quite possibly the single best experience I’ve had, at least in terms of background for my writing, is my stint in charge of Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. Overnight, I went from drafting real estate contracts to managing a department with responsibility for over a hundred thousand employees, with an average age of twenty-four. You’re entitled to gasp at this point. I did. You cannot believe what people get up to, and not in the privacy of their own homes or I wouldn’t have been involved in the matter. Three words, people. Drugs. Alcohol. Hormones. I have seen and heard things that would shock even the most hardened brothel owner.
One other facet of the India Black series relies upon my experience in the field of Human Resources. From the start, I knew that India would struggle with her personnel. After several years spent wrangling employees, I could not resist the comic possibilities of managing tarts. I’ve really enjoyed writing those scenes: tarts bickering over who gets to wear the best dress, tarts agitating for more benefits, tarts running wild while India is off playing spy. I suspect I have some unresolved issues to work through regarding my people management skills. Still, the process keeps me amused and, I hope, some of you as well.